Family Link

For most of the youth who come to us, their relationships with their parents or other guardians have broken down and they feel that they are alone. As soon as a youth arrives at our doors, we ask about their family and support network.

Our Family Link program counsels:

  1. Youth, aged 16 to 24, who are staying with us and wish to reconnect with a parent or other family member.
  2. Youth who are staying at home or in the community who would like advice or support to help their relationship with their parents or family members.
  3. Parents who would like advice or family counselling to help them communicate with and support their child, up to 24.

If you would like to inquire about our Family Link program, please contact Joanne Tamming at

In our Family Link program, we work with each youth to re-establish a connection with parents or other family members whenever it is possible. We also work with youth in the community who reach out to us before they leave home and parents who are struggling to connect with their child. With every youth who comes to us, our case managers assess whether they are closing up when the topic of family comes up or whether they are open to reconnecting. With the youth’s permission, we may reach out to family members to arrange phone calls, meetings or visits.

Whenever it is advisable, we encourage youth to stay with their families rather than coming to stay at a shelter. It is critically important for some of our younger youth to reconnect with a supportive adult, if possible, because we have found they are usually not ready to live on their own when they leave us.

For many of our youth, their home may have been a source of pain, but if it is safe to do so, mending family ties can also be powerfully healing. When our case managers meet with youth for counselling, they always guide them towards a discussion of the significant people in their lives. Counselling to begin to understand complex emotions about their family can be crucial for youth to build a healthy life of their own.

Sometimes a youth is able to return home or go to live with other extended family members, such as an aunt, grandparent or even an older sibling. Another youth may not want to return, but could benefit from improved family relationships. In these situations, we ensure that the youth’s family can play a role in supporting the youth as they become independent.

Community support for youth

We help youth who reach out to us with challenges they are facing at home. For youth struggling to communicate with a parent or other family member, or feeling overwhelmed with the stress at home, we offer counselling and support to them before the situation worsens or they run away. We can also advise them on community resources if they feel they need to leave home.

If you are a youth struggling at home, please contact Joanne Tamming at If you feel your home is unsafe and you are in danger, phone 911 immediately.

Parent counselling

We provide counselling to parents who are struggling with parenting their youth. Adolescence is a challenging time for both the youth and their parents. The parenting relationship must grow and change along with the youth.

When there are additional factors that can cause conflict and stress, our case managers can advise parents over the phone or in person. We can also facilitate discussions between parents and their children. In parent or family counselling, the focus is not on blaming or changing an individual, but on the relationship itself. We help rebuild the lines of communication, so a mutual understanding is possible.

If you are a parent who would like our support or family counselling, please contact Joanne Tamming at

Reaching out to the extended family

When youth first come to us, they have often decided that they are not able to live with parents, but they have not considered asking help from an older sibling, favourite aunt, grandparent, cousin or family friend. Our staff are able to carefully reach out to these supportive adults. For many of our youth, the only healthy relationships with adults are those they forge with our staff. But for youth who have someone in their family or neighbourhood who cares about them, they can be a meaningful positive influence. They can also sometimes play a role in talking to the estranged parent.

Family conflict or crises

Many youth have left home or are asked to leave because of family conflict. Family crises and other complex circumstances can fracture relationships between well-meaning individuals that can be resolved through counselling.

When parents get divorced, often kids are caught in the crossfire of an argument not meant for them. Sometimes a new step-parent and step-child may struggle to find a common understanding. Other family stresses like health and financial crises, or a death in the family, may make it harder for a parent to give their teen the emotional support they need as they wrestle to overcome their own challenges.

In a family crisis, there are often many factors that contribute to stress and conflict. Our case managers are able to help guide parents and youth to a mutual understanding during difficult times.

Mental health and addictions

When a youth has emerging mental health issues, parents are often overwhelmed and do not have the resources to cope. A youth’s substance use may also be disrupting the family and require treatment. Frequently, a youth will experience both mental health challenges and addictions concurrently. Drugs are used to “self-medicate” and exacerbate the underlying issues, creating a cycle. Conflicts often arise as families struggle to cope. In these situations, early intervention is vital. Both the youth and the family require expert support and counselling to deal with these challenges and the emotions that all members are feeling.

We provide counselling to both the youth staying with us and their families. We also have numerous community partnerships to ensure that the youth quickly receives the medical care and support that they need, whether they are staying with us or in the community.

Cultural differences

Sometimes there is a breakdown in communication between parents raised in a different culture than their kids. Parents often expect their children to live by the cultural values from their home countries, while youth want to choose a path of their own. Family counselling can help both parents and youth to feel respected, find common ground and reduce conflict. We have often met with parents who have had trouble seeing their child’s point of view, but when they work with our case managers, they discover a new way to relate to their kids as they grow into adulthood.


Many LGBTQ youth come to us, because they have been kicked out by their parents. Sometimes their parents have not rejected them, but the unique challenges a youth faces when coming to terms with their sexual or gender identity can create a feeling of distance between them and their parents. We can facilitate discussions between parents and the youth where everyone feels safe and heard. Often we can help the youth reach out to another family member who may be more supportive. We also connect them to partner agencies for additional support and community.

Internet luring and sex trafficking

Predators will seek out youth, mostly girls, on social media who have had a recent argument with a parent or who express insecurity about their appearance. Pimps will also make romantic gestures towards girls with the intention of trafficking them (using coercion to live off the proceeds from someone’s sexual activity). Once a girl is being sold for sex, the pimps will use threats or force to keep them from leaving, such as telling parents about their activities or threatening harm to family members.

If a parent or family member suspects their child is being pimped out or groomed for trafficking, we provide expert intervention, including counselling and shelter. If you think you are being exploited and would like to escape or if you are concerned for your family member, contact our sex trafficking specialist Michèle Anderson at

Contact us

If you are a youth, parent or other caregiver and would like to connect with us,please contact:

For family counselling or parenting support:

Joanne Tamming, BA (CYC)

For support from our sex trafficking specialist:

Michèle Anderson, Human Trafficking Advocate

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